"Keep firing on them. Keep firing, No. 2 Section. Everybody keep firing until the Cease Fire!"
This sharp, short order resounded out over the lonely rugged fields of West Cork and over the bleak, desolate roadside near the village of Kilmichael. On that cold winters day in 1920, the tranquilly of the Irish countryside was shattered as the sounds of close quarter combat stung the air. Members of the elite Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC) and the volunteers of IRA's Third (West) Cork Brigade's `Flying Column' were locked in a battle to the death.
In charge of the newly formed column that day in 1920, was 23-year-old Tom Barry, a First World War veteran. This book charts the nine-month period between October 1920 and July 1921, when he was the Commandant of the West Cork Brigade Flying Column.
In the book Barry describes some of the most famous military actions in west Cork during the War of Independence. The Kilmichael and Crossbarry engagements are described in detail; in the latter Barry managed to fight his way out of encircling force of over 1,200 enemy troops. Other less known actions and events are described to, the Toureen Ambush, the execution of spies, the Battle of Burgatia House, and the daring escape from encirclement when the Flying Column trekked the treacherous boggy mountainous land, near the Cork/Kerry border of Gougane Barra.
The book is fast paced and Barry has likeable straightforward writing style. I found it hard to put it down when I started; it's a real page-turner. I have since read it twice more and enjoyed it just as much as the first time. I would recommend this book for anybody with an interest in the 1916-1923 period in Irish history, in military history generally, or in local West Cork history.
For those interested in the 1916-1923 period, I'd also recommend `On Another Man's Wound' by Ernie O'Malley and `My Fight for Irish Freedom' by Dan Breen.